September 27, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “The Practical Joker”

The Enterprise computer becomes a potentially lethal prankster after passing through a weird energy cloud in space. Yes, that really happens.

So, since I stream this show, I do get a short plot description before I start each episode, and one where the Enterprise computer starts playing practical jokes on the crew that could turn lethal sounded a little like a very standard 70s or even 80s cartoon with a moral lesson attached about how practical jokes can get people hurt or worse so they shouldn’t be done.

But then I watched the episode, and while there is a lot of pranking going on, there’s no moralizing attached to it, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Anyhoo, while out patrolling near the Neutral Zone, the Enterprise is attacked by three Romulan ships for crossing into Romulan space, or so they claim.  Kirk denies it, and the episode never really clarifies it, so I guess it could go either way.  Point is, three to one isn’t good odds, so Kirk has the ship fly through some weird energy cloud to escape.  That seems to work, so now the crew can go back to doing whatever it is the crew does when the Romulans aren’t attacking.

That seems to go weird when, as everyone sits down for a meal, their drinking glasses splash water on everybody, and then Kirk’s fork starts drooping before he can get any food into his mouth.  It looks like there’s a prankster on the ship, but since everyone got pranked at the same time, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense who did it unless you’re like me (and I know I am) and you streamed the episode and the plot description already gave the basic twist away.

As it is, the pranks continue.  Spock gets some black smudges around his eyes after checking a new instrument on his control panel that he says doesn’t seem to do anything.  Scotty yells at both M’Ress and Arex in the dining room when food starts flying out of the replicator, ending with a pie to the Engineer’s face.

And Kirk, he’s having problems with his laundry, though kudos to the prankster for knowing how to rhyme when needed.

This may be the best moment of the entire Animated Series.

That would be about the time two things happen.  First, the computer starts laughing, and Kirk and Spock finally figure out what’s happening.  Second, McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu take some time to go down to the recreation room for a nature walk..wait, did they have a Holodeck?  Those things only come in to cause problems.  Case in point, the threesome fall down a pit trap, and when they crawl out, McCoy threatening retribution on whoever is laughing at them, the room turns into a blizzard that, if they don’t find a way out soon, could cause them all to freeze to death.  And Uhura in that mini-skirt may have it worse than the two men who at least have their legs covered.  The three are eventually rescued by Scotty and some of his guys armed with crowbars forcing the doors open.

Plus, the ship’s atmosphere changes over to laughing gas, and a corridor is suddenly one big ice slick, leading Kirk and Spock to slide around a bit in a way that, out of context, probably provided slash fiction writers with a ton of potential material.  Spock, perhaps immune to the gas and not laughing, does manage to switch the air back on for the time being, and Kirk can’t get the computer to follow orders without saying “pretty please with sugar on top”…maybe.  He won’t do that, so we’ll never know.

Then again, as the pranks get more dangerous, they could always shut the computer off and reboot.  Or they could, but as soon as Scotty tries, the artificial gravity is switched off until Scotty floats out of the room and gets locked out.

Well, this is getting bad, especially when the episode remembers there are Romulans involved and decides to prank them with a giant Enterprise balloon.  Where did they get that balloon?  Did the computer make one?  Can replicators do that?  I’m still waiting to find out why the Romulans claimed Kirk went into the Neutral Zone, so I don’t think we’ll be getting any answers there.  The real problem is the computer decided it wasn’t enough to prank the Enterprise crew; it had to prank the Romulans as well.

Fortunately, Kirk knows the only way to beat a prankster is to prank it back and feigns fear (badly from where I sat) to trick the computer into guiding the ship back into the energy cloud, a maneuver that fixes everything.

Of course the Romulans, angry at being pranked, followed the Enterprise in and had the same problem of a computer pulling pranks.  Kirk says he’ll tell them how to fix the problem.


Maybe Kirk is a jerk…

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